Texas Toe Jam

The following information won't surprise anyone who's opened a Dallas Observer in the past year: I'm no fan of Edgefest 15. Sunday's music festival is certainly worth talking about, though not merely because of my disdain for the middle-of-the-road bands plucked from 102.1 The Edge's play lists and thrown on the Pizza Hut Park stage. (If people cared about my itinerary, they would've stood next to me at Saturday's dismally attended Megan Reilly concert at the Cavern...can't win 'em all.)

EF15 first came up in our Summer Guide special section a few weeks ago; one of the contributors dedicated a full page to music events between now and August, and it shocked me to see that concerts anywhere near Dallas had been ignored. The author chose a "road trip" theme...basically, the piece advised music lovers to split town for a summer music fix. I was asked to add a paragraph at the last minute about a few local rock shows, EF15 being one of them.

But that choice came by default. Big-name concerts won't be in short supply around town, but if you want an all-day, mainstream-rock summer music event, the kind that's huge and sweaty and full of teens taking outdoor self-portraits for their MySpace profiles, you only have three choices this summer--EF15, August's Family Values Tour and July's Vans Warped Tour.

I had to double check, but it's true--Dallas, one of the nation's bigger metal markets, will not see this year's iteration of the Sounds of the Underground festival. Oh, and no Ozzfest, either. In fact, the only other big summer fest-style show coming to town is next Saturday's K104 Summer Jam at Smirnoff (whose hip-hop roster wasn't even confirmed as of press time on Monday!).

What the heck happened? Economics are at fault to some extent; after all, the '90s heyday of traveling music festivals has dwindled. Dallas' Polyphonic Spree learned that the hard way when Lollapalooza '04 was canned because of low ticket sales--the band never got to expose the nation at large to Together We're Heavy thanks to that last-minute disappointment.

Lollapalooza (now booked by Charles Attal Presents, the company that books the Gypsy Tea Room) adjusted to the market by morphing into a one-off superfest, and fests like Bonnaroo and CAP's Austin City Limits have succeeded with the same format. Thing is, if you go to Chicago for this year's Lolla, you'll see the likes of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Kanye West and Queens of the Stone Age. This weekend, Manchester, Tennessee, will host superstars like Beck, Radiohead and Tom Petty at Bonnaroo.

So what star power did Dallas' only modern rock radio station attract to represent our city's big, all-day rock show? The headliners are Staind and Trapt. Look at the contrast--"Go to Chicago to see the stars!" versus "Go to Dallas to buy a vowel."

Dallas has never seen a concert with as much dumbed-down, plastic, manufactured aggression. Truth be told, bands like Blue October, Evans Blue and Hoobastank play steroid-pumped '80s ballads, replacing cheesy keyboard parts with Alice In Chains-loving, dropped-D guitar chords, and the barely rebellious "I'm angry at something, by golly!" lyrics are sung by guys who weren't good enough to join Nickelback.

That won't change the fact that somebody loves this stuff--floor tickets are sold out as of press time (though seats in the stands are still for sale). And not everything about EF15 blows; even if the Toadies' reunion gig in March was a little underwhelming, I'm happy that the band gets to play to an all-ages crowd this weekend, and I must admit a fondness for Buckcherry, since they actually deliver some swagger and excitement in their odes to Guns 'N Roses.

But this isn't (just) a case of Mr. High and Mighty pissing on the mainstream show; I'd be happy if 102.1 landed some competent, successful bands like My Chemical Romance or Panic! At the Disco (who do their emo shtick a load better than EF15's Hawthorne Heights). Teens gobble up mainstream music, but they should at least get some heavyweights, rather than Staind, who peaked back when Limp Bizkit was popular (seems so long ago, doesn't it?).

The lack of local bands is the hardest part to accept (and no, big boys the Toadies and Drowning Pool do not count). Booking isn't easy. Organizers can't always land dream mainstream bands, what with conflicting booking agents/record labels/shoe sizes. Sometimes you get Staind. But here's a thought--Fort Worth's Black Tie Dynasty won the station's listener-chosen Cockfight many times last month. Why not invite them to play at least an early slot at EF15?

Instead, we're left with a polarizing music festival. Whatever you think of Edgefest's quality in recent years--it's been questionable, I think--at least older iterations weren't as homogenous. As the company behind this summer's only local fest, couldn't 102.1 reflect our city's diverse rock tastes?